Etruscans: How much of Rome’s Culture Comes from the Etruscans?

This is a complex question.  The Etruscans language is only partially understood and there are few Etruscan manuscripts.  Hence, we are left for written evidence to later Roman historians, who are universally negative on the Etruscan civilization.  Further, a great deal of what is know comes from tombs and their artifacts.  In the Tarquin Valley, outside of Rome, large numbers of Etruscan tombs have been found.  These tombs have beautiful frescoes which provide our best insight into Etruscan life.  These tombs were filled with artifacts many of which are in museums around Italy, including Museo Nazionale Archeologico in Florence, The Vatican Museum in Rome, and the Museo Nazionale Tarquiniese in Tarquinia, a small town of 90,000 outside of Rome.

In the next series of articles, I will provide photographs from my collection as well as other images collected from the internet to illustrate what is know about the Etruscans.

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy, during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, including the Campania region to the south

One could simply answer that some of the first kings of Rome were Etruscans and thus Etruscan culture naturally flowed into Rome.  This, of course, is true, but I do not think it is the whole story.  But let’s first explore the Etruscan kings.

First, one has to be aware that according to tradition, at least three of Roe’s seven kings were Etruscans.  Romulus, the first king was succeeded by Sabine kings until Tarquinius Priscus, (Tarquinius I) the first Etruscan monarch, succeeded Marcius as the fifth King of Rome. Tarquinis supposedly ruled from 616 – 579 BC.   According to tradition, each king’s reign is marked by specific achievements.  In the case of Tarquinis Priscus, he is credited with the foundation of the Roman games (Ludi Romani), the Circus Maximus and the construction of the great sewers (cloacae).  As we will see, Etruscans did indeed hold gladiatorial  games.  In addition, much of Rome’s military symbolism (the eagle, etc.) and civil offices is believed to have been developed during this period.  Because it was during this period that the Romans conquered several more neighboring Latin and Sabine tribes.  He is also credited with bringing the Etruscan military triumph tradition to Rome, and being the first to celebrate one in the city.

Servius Tullius followed Tarquinius and ruled as the sixth King from 578 to 534 BC. He is renowned for implementing a new constitution further developing the citizen classes. The Servian Walls (city walls of Rome) are attributed to him, but modern archeology indicates that the existing walls were built in the 4th Century BC, which clearly rules out the walls as having been constructed during his reign. He is also credited with the construction of the Temple of Diana on the Aventinus hill. He was assassinated by his daughter Tullia and her husband Tarquin known as Superbus..

The seventh and final King of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, (Tarquin the Proud) ruled from 534-510 BC. Under his rule, the Etruscans were at the height of their power, and the authority of the monarchy was absolute. He repealed several earlier constitutional reforms and used violence and murder to hold his power. His tyrannical rule was despised by the Romans and the final straw was the rape of Lucretia, a patrician Roman, at the hands of Tarquinius’ son Sextius. The Tarquins and the monarchy were cast out of Rome in 510 BC in a revolt led by Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus.

Etruscan culture was influenced by many factors.  Roman historians believed that the Etruscans had come from Anatolia.  This assertion is supported by modern DNA testing.  But the Etruscans derived elements of their culture from other sources.  We will explore these other sources in  the next article.

Etruscan art
Early Etruscan civilisation was heavily influenced by the Phoenicians and Greeks





Life of Levi: A First Look

As you may know, I am in the process of writing a novel about the evangelist, Matthew.

The book is going to open with a Greek merchant, Maes Titianus, somewhere in the desert, north of the toll booth of Capernaum.  Maes Titianus is a real historical figure.  More about him in a moment.

I have given him another Greek merchant named,  Peukestas, as a companion.  This name was the name of one of Alexander the Great’s generals who came from Mieza in Macedonia.  Peukestas saved Alexander’s life in India. He is one of Alexander’s thirty-three trierarchs (captains of a ship).  He was only one of three who won a golden diadem for his valor.   In ancient Greek, the name Peukestas (or Peucastas) means ‘one who is sharp’.

Maes Titianus is recorded as having travelled farthest along the  Silk Road from the Mediterranean world.  He  reached the famous Stone Tower, in Tashkurgan in the Pamirs,  Tashkurgan means Stone Tower in the Turkic languages and is located just over the border of China.  The Pamirs are the mountain chain at the junction of the Himalayas and the Tian Shun and other mountains in Asia.  Obviously, these are very tall mountains.

Almost our entire knowledge of  Maes Titianus is limited to a brief credit in Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography, 1.11.7.  This entry reads as follows:  “Marinus tells that a certain Macedonian names Maen who is also called Titian, son of a merchant father, and a merchant himself, noted the length of his journey (to the Stone Tower), although he did not come to Sera in person but sent other there.”

One other thing that also comes out is that Maes Titianus  apparently kept a journal of his travels.  This journal may have been published during the first century AD.  Although, there is some debate as to when he lived, it is clear that he reached the Stone Tower either before 50 AD or after 75 AD.  This is because the road became blocked during this era, due to an uprising of a nomadic people called the Kushan.  I have chosen to use the earlier date for purposes of my story.

Both of theses Greek merchants will figure into my story and will meet Matthew.  How and why, I shall leave to the novel itself.

The novel now is still very much in its a nascent form.  I am going to take a trip where I will learn how to ride a camel through a desert.  You might be able to guess why I need to acquire this skill or maybe just the experience of having done it!

The setting for much of the novel will be in and around Capernaum, which explains why I have been researching this town and area, some of my research I have shared with you.

I will periodically release research that I am continuing to do concerning Matthew and his Gospel.  There seems to be a great deal of interest in my research in this area, judging from the views of my blog.

I will  also continue to update you concerning my novel’s progress.

However, I want to address one question which has been posed to me:  Why do I write novels and not text books?  In a novel, I can weave into the story all of my research and hopefully bring to life the era, that is the context in which the people live and move, their experiences, the geography in which they live,, the food they ate, the jobs they did, and so forth.  It allows me to tell a story and to fill in details which may not otherwise have been verified by archaeology or other scientific means.  I am pleased that in the past some of the things which I have imagined have been later verified through archaeology and other scientific means.

Writing a text book, while appealing to me in one way, is also not appealing in many other ways.    There are other and better writers of textbooks alive.  I am best sited, I think to write fiction and to use my imagination.  I would not be able to do that in the context of a text book.  Although, I strive for the greatest possible authenticity in my novels, it is clear that in a text book, I would not be able to explore an interesting character, such as Maes Titianus, as a person-there is just too little known about him to do so.  But in a novel, I can explore him in depth, because I can use what is known about merchants of the era, what is known about Macedonian Greeks of the era, what is known about the travels that merchants did undertake as published in their journals, which became ‘bestsellers’ in the Roman world, and so forth.

So, I hope to keep you informed about where my novel is going and to give you some teasers in future blogs.





Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?





I am republishing this article from Biblical Archaeology Review, because of its greats


significance.  I hope you enjoy.



Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

Jesus’ home in Nazareth

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.—Ed.

The childhood home of Jesus may have been found underneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent in Nazareth, Israel, according to archaeologist Ken Dark.The excavation site located beneath the convent has been known since 1880, but it was never professionally excavated until the Nazareth Archaeological Project began its work in 2006. In “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR, Ken Dark, the director of the Nazareth Archaeological Project, not only describes the remains of the home itself, but explores the evidence that suggests that this is the place where Jesus spent his formative years—or at least the place regarded in the Byzantine period as the childhood home of Jesus.

The excavation revealed a first-century “courtyard house” that was partially hewn from naturally occurring rock and partially constructed with rock-built walls. Many of the home’s original features are still intact, including doors and windows. Also found at the site were tombs, a cistern and, later, a Byzantine church.

The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.

The remains combined with the description found in the seventh-century pilgrim account De Locus Sanctis point to the courtyard house found beneath the convent as what may have been regarded as Jesus’ home in Nazareth. Archaeological and geographical evidence from the Church of the Annunciation, the International Marion Center and Mary’s Well come together to suggest that this location may be where Jesus transitioned from boy to man.

Ken Dark also discusses the relationship between the childhood home of Jesus, Nazareth and the important site of Sepphoris. It has been thought that Sepphoris would have provided Joseph with work and Jesus many important cultural experiences. However, Ken Dark believes that Nazareth was a larger town than traditionally understood and was particularly Jewish in its identity—as opposed to the Roman-influenced Sepphoris. This is partially based on the result of his survey of the Nahal Zippori region that separates Sepphoris and Nazareth geographically.

For more on the childhood home of Jesus, read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

——————BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” by Ken Dark in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Some Views of Capernaum


Jesus’ Activity at the Sea of Galilee

(Also called Lake of Gennesaret and Sea of Tiberias)

Legend for Map Above

1 Calms a storm from the boat

2 Sends demons into swine

3 Feeds 5,000 men

4 Walks on sea

5 Feeds 4,000 men

6 Traditional location of Sermon on the Mount

The bulk of the ministry of Jesus, as reported by Matthew is around the Sea of Galilee.  We know that Jesus preached at the synagogue in Capernaum.  We also know that Jesus lived with Peter in Peter’s house in Capernaum.


The octagonal building in the above picture is the Church marking the location of Peter’s home. The white building in the center is the site of the synagogue, but the synagogue is from the 4th Century AD, not the synagogue at which Jesus taught.  The synagogue where Jesus taught is underneath the 4trh Century synagogue.


Capernaum Jesus Synagogue

This is the remains of the synagogue from the time of Jesus.


Capernaum Temple 1st View

Another view of Ancient Capernaum. The 4th synagogue is visible in the background and is made of white limestone.  The foreground is some of the homes  and other buildings.


Capernaum Temple 2d View

The synagogue from the 4th century, another view.  Recently,there have been excavations that have uncovered the 2-story synagogue. It was of a beautiful ornamented style cut in limestone, rather than the typical black basalt seen around the area, and was 65 feet long. The carved stone ornamentation depicted stylized plants, fruits, 5-pointed stars, geometric motifs, and even mythological figures. There were also dedicatory inscriptions written in Aramaic and Greek.



Historicity of Pontius Pilate- Revisited

Some two years ago, I wrote multiple articles of the historicity of Pontius Pilate.  To night on CNN in the United States at 9:oo pm and being repeated at 12 midnight on the show Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, CNN is revisiting the so-called Pilate Stone.  This one keystone for a building, found in Caesarea  Maritima not only proves the existence of Pontius Pilate but also supplies  valuable information concerning his term of office in Judea and his correct title, and therefore his actual authority.  I would recommend viewing this show.